Silverthorne gives birth to Diamondville

Upcoming Intel processor yields another new product

Diamondville, a new Intel chip targeted at ultra-low cost and low power notebooks, will be built around the core of Intel's upcoming low-power Silverthorne processor. The Diamondville chip is scheduled to start shipping next year, and is intended for low-cost computers for emerging markets, like the Classmate PC and the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC), according to Intel.

"Diamondville is the progeny of Silverthorne, a derivative of Silverthorne", says Anand Chandrasekher, general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group.

Silverthorne, a new 45 nanometer, low power microarchitecture-based processor, is fully compatible at the instruction set level with Intel's Merom architecture, Chandrasekher says. Merom was the codename for Intel's current Core 2 Duo processors for notebooks. "Whatever software runs on Merom will run on Silverthorne without the need to recompile it," he says. He expects that software compatibility with PCs will be a key differentiator for devices built around Silverthorne.

"What we have done changed the microarchitecture dramatically, effectively tore it up and re-did it, to get to lower power", Chandrasekher says. Menlow, a chipset for mobile internet devices (MIDs) and UMPCs (ultra-mobile PCs), that is scheduled to ship in the first half of next year, achieves Intel's low-power target of 0.5 watts for chips for internet devices, he says.

Intel plans to target Silverthorne at a variety of other applications, including embedded markets such as the automotive industry, and consumer electronics applications like set-top boxes and DVD (digital versatile disc) players.

"These segments are in addition to MIDs, and are new spaces for us, and we have not participated in them either because the (low) power was not there, or because the (low) cost structure wasn't there," Chandrasekher says.

When it ships next year, Menlow will support wi-fi, Bluetooth, WiMax, and GPS (Global Positioning System) in silicon. Intel is not delivering cellular communications or advanced protocols such as HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) on its chips, because there are others who can do that part better than Intel, according to Chandrasekher. Device makers can get it either on a module or as silicon and add it to the devices, he says.

Intel is also not likely to integrate communications functionality into the Silverthorne applications processor, as a majority of customers want the flexibility to decide what modems they want to include, depending on which geographies they are designing their products for, Chandrasekher says.

As it targets the mobile internet and consumer electronics markets, Intel will also be introducing products faster than before, according to Chandrasekher. "We believe that this is a critical piece for winning in these markets," he says. Intel is currently scheduled to deliver one new product a year, with Menlow to be followed by another product, code named Moorestown, in 2009. Consumer electronics and phone makers change their designs every year, as they look for something new and dramatic, Chandrasekher says.

However, Getting Intel's chips into new markets like consumer electronics and mobile internet takes more than silicon, and requires Intel to offer reference designs to its customers. "It is as much of a platform sell or more than what we ever did for the Centrino, so from that standpoint our investment in it is higher at the platform level," Chandrasekher says. Intel is, however, avoiding designing a standard motherboard with all the features in it, because that would limit innovation from device manufacturers, he says.

It is not clear as yet whether Intel is planning to use its "Intel Inside" branding strategy for the new markets, which have very large and established companies and brands. "If it makes sense for us to brand these devices, we will consider it," says Chandrasekher, who adds that Intel's primary consideration at this point is to get the product done right. "If we have a product here that we feel deserves a brand, then we will visit that equation at that point of time," he says.

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